With the rise of psychology and therapy in the 20th century and the thereby reduced role of Christian clergy within the fields of healthcare and society at large, a new specialisation arose which lied between the psychologist/therapist and clergy: the spiritual/pastoral care worker. Elements of this new religious specialisation were taken from the already existing role of the pastoral worker, but also required new qualities to work in the new marked out spaces in society. Combining the new fields of psychology, therapy, and counselling with the old fields of religious and spiritual guidance and consolation, the spiritual care worker shows that the search for transcendent meaning in the difficult moments of life is very much alive in the modern world. With the integration of both Muslims in the West, as well as the integration of psychology and therapy in Muslim societies, the Islamic spiritual care worker was born. With this new religious role which lies between imam/alim and psychologist/therapist, a specialized form of Islamic guidance adapted to specific settings (hospitals, prisons, mental health institutions etc.) has been formed. With this new role, new forms of education are required that combine the traditional with the new. The Department of Qurʾan and Sunnah Studies at IIUM, for instance, has proposed a new course on Revelation and Spiritual Counsel. To create effective Islamic spiritual care education and practice, a clear conceptualisation of its function and requirements is needed.


This online conference aims to explore what is the old and new of Islamic spiritual care, how to formulate effective education, and how it differentiates itself from other religious authority roles such as imam, alim, and mufti. The following are the themes of interest for this conference:

  • Different Islamic perspectives on spiritual guidance and counselling:
    • Guidance and counselling through Qurʾan and Sunnah
    • Guidance and counselling through fiqh and iftāʾ
    • Guidance and counselling through kalām and falsafah
    • Guidance and counselling through adāb and taṣawwuf
    • Guidance and counselling through other Islamic sciences

  • The different conceptualization of Islamic spiritual care:
    • The similarities and/or differences between chaplaincy, spiritual care, pastoral care, and theology of care
    • The traditional and modern Islamic terms for spiritual care
    • The similarities and differences between Christian and Islamic spiritual care
    • The differences between psychology/therapy/counselling and spiritual care
    • The differences between fatwa and spiritual care
    • How to explain and promote the role and benefits of Islamic spiritual care to Muslims and non-Muslims laity and professionals

  • The specialization requirements for effective Islamic spiritual care:
    • What elements of spiritual care already existed in Islamic traditional seminary training (Alimiyya)?
    • What are new qualities needed for effective spiritual care?
    • The development and status of Islamic spiritual care education in Europe and America
    • The development and status of Islamic spiritual care education in Muslim societies
    • What are the differences between traditional Islamic roles (imam/mufti) and the Islamic spiritual care worker?
    • What requirements (knowledge, skills) do the main settings of spiritual care work (hospitals, prisons, mental health institutions etc.) create for the Islamic scholar?
    • The cooperation between psychologist/therapist and Islamic spiritual care worker
    • Interreligious cooperation between spiritual care workers

  • Between textual theory and human reality:
    • The differences between textual and psychological hermeneutics
    • How to explain Islamic theological theory in an effective way it becomes a source of care and consolation?
    • The subjects of spiritual care (suffering, illness, loss, imprisonment, rehabilitation etc.) and the subjects of the Islamic sciences
    • The intellectual and social diversity of recipients of Islamic spiritual care